Hail stone dents on a car in Illiondale, Edenvale. Photo: Handout/Supplied

Johannesburg - Insurer Santam is bringing in 25 “hail pushers” from Brazil, the US, the Netherlands and Slovenia to use their specialised skills to remove dents in vehicles damaged by an exceptional hailstorm a week ago.

The group of technicians will arrive in South Africa within the next 10 working days to bolster the country’s “already contracted hail damage repair capacity”, it said on Friday.

This was to expedite hail damage relief in parts of the country most affected by the storm last Saturday, when golf-ball sized hail shattered car windscreens, windows and bonnets, and crushed roofs and garden furniture.

In Gauteng, the East Rand bore the brunt of the damage.

“The added capacity of imported hail dent pushers, which are specialist artisans with special panelbeating tools designed to take out dents such as those caused by hail where the paint of the vehicle has not been damaged, is just one of the tactical measures we’ve implemented to respond speedily to the trail of devastation left by last weekend’s flood and hail storms,” said Fanus Coetzee, the head of adjustment services at Santam.

“We’re not bringing them in directly,” Coetzee told the Saturday Star. “We’ve contracted with a company who does this under normal circumstances. However, the magnitude of the storm was so big and we’ve got so many vehicles to repair, there’s not enough capacity to cope with the magnitude of this specific case.”

Coetzee predicted that the hail pushers would take about three months to repair the vehicles, but without them it “could take six to eight months” to catch up.

“For 600 of the 1 000 recorded cases so far, we can push the dents out. We want to get our clients on the road as fast as possible. But in other instances, the damage is too severe and the vehicle must either go for traditional panel beating or we must replace the panels completely.”

He said although other hail storms caused damage, last Saturday’s was the worst in decades and Santam has estimated losses to be around R35 million.

“We’ve definitely seen recent storms but the extent of damage has not been widely spread. In the early 1980s, I was with my dad in our vehicle in Pretoria when our windscreen was hit in a severe hail storm like this. Then, there were 4 000 cars to repair. Since then, we have had storms with 100 or 200 vehicles to repair.”

Jolene Chait of Dial Direct said the storm was one of the most destructive. “According to our consultants, the hail storm resulted in one incident of a broken nose, two incidents of broken spectacles and plenty of bruises.”

Chait said the company had received over 3 302 motor and non-motor claims within 12 hours of the severe storm taking place, with more claims coming through daily.

Outsurance spokeswoman Natasha Kawulesar said it had received 7 500 claims this week.

“We have flown in our building assessors from various regions of the country to assist with the prompt assessment of claims,” she said.

It had opened several extra drive-in centres where damaged vehicles were being assessed and extended working hours. “We’ve also confirmed with two of the largest glass suppliers that they… are doing their utmost to ensure our clients receive their urgent attention.”

Saturday Star